Why is it important to learn Spanish?
Over 480 million people speak Spanish worldwide, and Spanish is the official language of 21 countries. With over six million people in the USA currently learning Spanish, you can join an ever-growing club by taking in-person and online Spanish classes.
As the post-pandemic world re-opens, maybe you’re ready to travel for school, work, or pleasure. Learning Spanish can expand your job skills, connect you with your community, and grow your gray matter.
Consider a few compelling reasons to take in-person or online Spanish classes in 2021:
- Tourism: The world is opening back up. Wouldn’t you rather take the touristic path less traveled? By learning Spanish for beginners, you can explore Latin America and Spain with greater understanding, forge friendships, and gain insights into local cultures.
- Community connections: Closer to home, taking Spanish conversation classes can connect you to Spanish-speakers in your town or city. In the US, an estimated 41 million people speak Spanish at home. Learning Spanish builds bridges with your Spanish-speaking neighbors, coworkers, and community members.
- Career: Health care, education, customer service, law enforcement, social work, and banking are fields where Spanish can be an asset, even a requirement. When you take conversational Spanish classes, you can make a more meaningful impact in work that involves community engagement.
- Culture: Great art and fun entertainment is in Spanish. From classic cinema to Youtube videos, Spanish-language music, movies, and literature delight and edify. Wouldn’t it be great to read a Pablo Neruda poem, listen to a Luis Miguel song, or watch a Luis Buñuel film? And grasp the gist without subtitles or translations?
- Cognates: English and Spanish share cognates. For instance, liberty and libertad come from the Latin libertas. Many scientific, literary, and technical terms derive from Latin roots in both Spanish and English. With greater awareness of Latin roots, you can improve your vocabulary smarts.
- World language skills: The skills you hone taking online Spanish classes can pay off down the road if you learn more languages. The tools, tips, and techniques of learning Spanish online apply to everything from Arabic to Zulu. Acquiring your next language can be easier and more enjoyable.
- Boost your brain: Research suggests that both long-term and short-term language learners experience enhanced executive functioning. Speaking, listening, writing, and reading in a new language improves your focus, memory, and cognition. Not only children benefit from bilingualism; adult language learners show improved mental flexibility, decision-making, and multi-tasking ability. Simply put, learning a language boosts your brain.
In 2021 and beyond, in-person and online Spanish conversation classes will only increase in relevance and value around the US, including Northampton, Massachusetts, and the New England area. The best online Spanish courses use engaging materials and provide ample opportunities to practice speaking in groups and with partners.
With the world becoming increasingly interconnected, now’s a great time to learn Spanish.
Is taking Spanish online hard?
Learning a new language is never easy, but the best online Spanish course gives you lots of chances to practice speaking. All you need is computer, Internet connection, and an interest in Spanish.
Learning Spanish for beginners takes work, but online Spanish classes can be doable and enjoyable. The best online Spanish course provides opportunities to chat, play games, and socialize. You can make small talk, discuss issues, and make cultural connections.
Sure, you can study Spanish by watching Youtube tutorials, clicking through multiple choices exercises, and squinting at Spanish grammar textbooks. The Internet is overflowing with apps, videos, and grammar exercises to teach you Spanish.
That’s fine and dandy, but most people need social experience to develop language skills. What most people need is a human connection to learn Spanish online. Learning Spanish involves more than analyzing rules, memorizing vocabulary, and perfecting the syntax of elegant sentences.
Not all Spanish classes give you the chance to practice in a friendly environment. The best online Spanish classes create a welcoming community to discuss your interests, share your passions, and express yourself in a new language.
How to learn Spanish online
If in-person classes are not an option, you may wonder how to learn conversational Spanish online effectively.
The best online Spanish classes are conducted on virtual platforms like Zoom or Google Meets, allowing group lessons with an instructor and partner work in breakout rooms.
Participants in online Spanish classes can view instructor slides, listen to audio, and practice speaking with classmates. The key is to use the language in ways that are relevant to everyday life and personal goals. Active, student-centered online classes are the answer to the question of how to learn the Spanish language online.
In fact, there are advantages to online Spanish conversation classes compared to in-person.
Firstly, you don’t have to race off to a physical classroom after work in the evening. Don’t you commute enough already?
Or maybe you’re worried about the weather. Driving to school during a New England blizzard is a non-issue with online Spanish classes.
Instead of rushing off, you can relax. Settled into a comfortable chair with good headset, computer connection, and cup of tea, you’re ready to make the most of your online Spanish course.
While some students may miss the classroom with its desks, dry erase markers, and colored papers, other students enjoy the convenience, comfort, and orderliness of the virtual environment. Online lessons may not allow physical proximity and movement, but a human connection can still be made.
Right off the bat, everybody can see each other’s name on screen. Speaking through headsets or laptop mics, participants can hear each other clearly–sometimes more clearly than in person. In fact, hesitant voices may come across with greater clarity. Online formats can help reticent beginners build confidence. If you’re feeling shy, online Spanish classes are a great place to find your sea legs.
A further advantage is that online platforms allow instructors to manage the classroom with greater equity. In Zoom or Google Meets, instructors have tools to share digital files, elicit responses, control audio volume, send helpful chat messages, and boost talk time equally among participants. Fewer students get left behind.
Google Classroom, Blackboard, or other LMS provides timely, convenient “one-stop shopping” for instructional materials, assignments, and instructor feedback. The chat box can provide instant instructor prompts and error correction–plus the chat can be saved and downloaded as a file for later review.
The best online Spanish classes help you take risks with new words and phrases. If you’re wondering how to learn Spanish language online, just be yourself. Introverted personalities may feel more comfortable on screen. Extroverted personalities can feed off the group dynamic in gallery view.
You may love Spanish-language movies, literature, and music. You may want to connect with Spanish-speaking friends, family, and neighbors. Spanish speaking language skills may be useful at your job. No matter the future of travel and tourism, Spanish will continue to grow in popularity and importance.
Plus, the social and mental skills that you developed while taking online Spanish classes can transfer to your next self-improvement project: learning French, German, Japanese–you name it.
How to learn how to pronounce the Spanish ‘rr’?
One of the most distinctive and beautiful aspects of the Spanish language is the rolled “rr” sound, otherwise known as the trill.
This famously musical sound springs to mind when we imagine a Spanish accent.
The first thing to understand is that there are actually two “r” sounds in Spanish.
Different from the trill, the simple or soft r is made by touching the roof of your mouth with the tip of your tongue ONCE. The technical term is alveolar tap, which may sound like a dance move or surgical procedure, but it actually refers to producing the simple r sound. Your tongue quickly taps the bump behind your upper front teeth at the edge of your hard palate.
The alveolar tap sounds somewhat like the “t” sound in the words waiter or otter in American English. It may also sound like a light trill, but it won’t really roll like a true trill.
You use alveolar tap to pronounce the single written letter r in three cases:
- When it occurs as the last letter, as in ir (to go).
- When it appears between two vowels, as in oro (gold).
- When it comes after any consonant except l, n, or s, such as gripe (flu) or teatro (theater).
The rules of R aren’t always set in stone. Some Spanish speakers trill the final r a word. So, on Valentine’s Day you can say mi amor with an alveolar tap or a trill—and you’ll be right (and romantic) either way.
To pronounce the Spanish trill, you touch the roof of your mouth with the tip of your tongue quickly and REPEATEDLY (not once as with the alveolar tap).
Rather than a single tap, the trill is more like a tap dance. Your tongue “rolls” on your hard palate.
Rule number one (this time set in stone) is that when a word contains two written letter rr’s, you trill to your heart’s content. That means you roll your r’s in barrio (neighborhood) and carril (lane), though not corazón (heart) with only one r.
Note how similar words such as perro (dog) and pero (but) differ. The former has a trill, the latter has a simple r.
The trill may also appear at the beginning of a word but will NEVER be spelled with two letter r’s. That means, you roll your r’s when pronouncing rojo (red), risa (laugh), and rana (frog).
Nobody’s born with the ability to trill. Children may acquire it with enviable ease, but adult Spanish learners often struggle.
With the soft r sound, you bounce your tongue off the roof of your mouth a single time. With the trill, you bounce your tongue off the roof of your mouth multiple times. Easier said than done?
Gentle press the tip of your tongue to the ridge where you pronounce the soft r–the place you pronounce the t in letter. The sound comes from there, not the throat (you’re not growling). Exhale. Don’t press too hard. But not too light. Sigh. The sound comes from the air passing over the tongue as it taps the roof of your mouth.
Practice is the best medicine. A great time to practice is right after you wake up in the morning, when your mouth muscles are relaxed and have temporarily “forgotten” their normal formation.
Here are two tongue twisters to train your tongue to trill (and do the soft r):
- Tres tristes tigres comen tres tristes platos de trigo. (Three sad tigers eat three sad plates of wheat).
- El perro de Rita me irrita. Dile a Rita que cambie el perro por una perrita. (Rita’s dog irritates me. Tell Rita to get a new dog.)
Which version of Spanish should I learn?
Similar to English, Spanish can differ among speakers depending on country, city, or socioeconomic status. There’s no single, monolithic Spanish language. Pronunciation, vocabulary, and even grammar varies among Spanish speakers worldwide, from Mexico City to Madrid.
However, the main differences boil down to two regions: Spanish in Spain or Spanish from Latin America. The differences are not huge. Folks from Spain and Mexico can understand each other, much like a Londoner and Californian are mutually intelligible.
If you’re wondering which Spanish to learn–the Latin American version or the Spanish version–remember that the differences are slight, so it’s not a big deal, especially if you’re starting off.
At least 90% of what you learn pertains to both kinds of Spanish. It doesn’t matter much which you study, especially if you’re learning Spanish for beginners. When choosing Spanish conversation classes, don’t worry about which Spanish to learn.
Differences among accents, vocabulary, or grammar may throw up occasional stumbling blocks, but no major obstacles. The speaking skills you develop in your online Spanish classes will let you communicate in any Spanish-speaking country.
If you have specific travel or work plans in a particular region or country, you may wish to narrow your focus as you move up to the intermediate level. Sooner or later, you may want to expose yourself to a variety of accents.
If you’re in New England, Massachusetts, or Northampton, you’re more likely to encounter Latin American Spanish. The 10 largest Hispanic origin groups—Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Salvadorans, Dominicans, Guatemalans, Colombians, Hondurans, Ecuadorians and Peruvians—make up over 90% of Spanish speakers in the USA. Thus, by and large, American students tend to focus on learning Latin American Spanish, while Europeans focus on Spanish from Spain.
As long as you practice the fundamentals in a dynamic online Spanish class and keep your ears open to the different accents, you’ll be prepared to communicate in most situations at home or abroad.
How long does it take to learn Spanish fluently?
Science offers no definitive answers as to how long it takes for an adult to become fluent in Spanish (or any other language.)
The US State Department, however, hazards an estimate: 600 class hours.
If you were to take 12 hours a week of in-person or online Spanish classes, that adds up to one year.
Of course, the greater your daily time commitment, the faster you become fluent. Regardless, achieving fluency requires resources of time and determination.
Fluency, however, may not be necessary for you to reach goals. Learning Spanish for beginners can bring great results if your immediate aim is to start socializing with Spanish-speaking colleagues in their language, understanding the lyrics of favorite Latin artists, or deepening your insights into Latino/a and Hispanic life in the US. You don’t need to be fluent to travel to Spain or Latin America and get a lot out of the experience.
The best online Spanish classes will give you tools to start understanding Spanish-speaking culture and communicating with people in Spanish immediately. In an effective interactive online Spanish class, you’ll learn to do things like order food, meet new neighbors, and read signs in Spanish.
The journey of a thousand miles begins with a few steps. The best online Spanish classes use a communicative approach to get you walking and talking.
Learning Spanish for beginners is a highly personalized and social process. The best online Spanish classes can get you understanding and speaking Spanish in a simple but meaningful way after just a few hours a week.